In order to build homes today, small operators can’t get land entitlements. The reason for this is because cities now demand private builders pay for roads and parks in advance, and build them at the same time as the homes are built. This is extremely costly, and hardly anyone can play this game. And what gets built with this “smart growth” is not a natural flow of landowners everywhere electing when to sell to a homebuilder, and the market pouring development into the natural nooks and crannies. Instead, our cities make painstakingly negotiated and litigated, massive leaps, each one involving massive compounds of densely packed homes, usually surrounded by 12 foot masonary walls. Each of these “planned communities”can involve hundreds of millions in financing and take many decades to realize a return, adhering to ever-changing, endless regulations determined by committees and bureaucrats and politicians. Is this any way to settle the wide and beautiful lands of California?
So within the “urban service boundaries,” city and county governments force “infill” developments that congest the roads and destroy rural suburbs, and outside of these arbitrary walls, you have to pay for a whole city in advance if you want to build. This is a perversion of natural growth. Plenty of people are still going to want to live in the new highrises of downtown urban centers, you don’t have to legislate and litigate everything to squeeze sixty million people into this huge state. In the good old days, cities widened the roads and developed the parks years later. Nobody had “Mello Roos” fees to pay – property taxes by any other name. So what if there wasn’t a park for thirty years, or ever, people had nice backyards to play in, and grow trees. With low density, the cost to build smart freeways is much lower. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect, just green.
Today it doesn’t matter if you are in a “planned community” outside the urban service boundary, or “infill” within, all of the housing has to be ultra high-density. Natural development would have “low density” followed by genuine low density followed by small ranchettes, then ranchettes and farms, and so on. Of course natural waterways would not be exposed to toxins, and housing would not pollute. But there could exist genuine amd myriad and painless new countryside developments where single-home lots were at least one acre each. This is not something everyone wants – that is a lot of yard to take care of – but homes with large lots – even small homes on large lots – should be available to those who want them. Eventually around crossroads in these low density suburbs town centers form on their own. This is how land is settled. It follows the contours of the earth, it spreads out evenly, not in litigated leaps.
Instead these planned communities and infill developments are walled compounds, with “low density” packing as many as 8 homes to the acre. The irony is the staggering opportunity cost of this mandated, inorganic growth, when totally green cars are just around the corner, and totally green buildings are pretty much here today, and off-grid living is taking off. California in general, and Sacramento in particular, has abundant open space that is currently floodplain, or farmland, or rangeland, or foothills, that could spread from Mt. Shasta to the Kern River, a great new sprawling city of greenbelts and green ‘burbs, gentlemen farmers on private land, moms and dads in homes on large lots. The finest low density megacity in the history of human civilization. Green cars will drive themselves in a few more years, and hitch rides on high-speed trains into the high-rise urban centers.
There is room for all of this in California’s future, smart high speed trains, dams, reservoirs, powerplants, aquaducts, canals, nuclear powered desalination plants, aquifer infrastructure, smart freeways, solar power, high rises and rail. But to finance this, we have to fiscally reengineer our government. We have to require all taxpayer, government administered benefits for all workers to be the same, regardless of whether one works in the public sector or the private sector. Every worker has to get the same deal. This would encourage cross-pollination of personnel between the public and private sector. It would make American private industry more competitive. It would alleviate much of the misunderstanding between the public and private sectors. It would pass the crucible of public policy to focus on immigration and demographic policy and what defines a working American citizen. It would ease the imperative for public agencies to enact policies that increase home prices to increase property tax revenue. It would restore fiscal solvency to public institutions and allow the financing of everything we need to rebuild in green our physical plant.
Denying every landowner the right to build homes on their land should end. All landowners should be allowed to build green homes. Low density development has a low carbon footprint and a cooling thermal effect, since cars are going green and large home lots have room for tree canopy. By allowing the “footprint” of cities to expand, the supply of homes is increased, and prices drop.